Bandwidth throttling is a problem usually brought to bear by overzealous ISPs protecting their bottom line. But could it be that the video streaming companies are throttling themselves now in order to give preferential treatment to some?
Netflix is making huge headway in making the idea of digital downloads and streaming mainstream. By making its ‘Watch Instantly’ service available on all manner of devices, it is getting into millions of homes in the U.S. But is it overstretching itself?
Netflix is now available not only on PC, but on a range of devices including the Xbox 360, the Roku box, a hybrid Blu-ray player, and even a new range of Internet-enabled televisions. But in order to serve these different devices, is it throttling some aspects of its streaming service?
There is one glaring issue facing the streaming and downloading of movies and television content, particularly as high-definition becomes more common. That is, Broadband speeds and Internet connections being able to handle the bandwidth needed to allow for a good user experience.
This is already an issue, with many ISPs not offering fast enough speeds, or the infrastructure not in place in many areas of the world to make these distribution methods a possibility. But the issue is compounded by the problem of throttling, with ISPs known to purposely slow down the connection speeds for people downloading a lot of data.
In the United States, this has mainly been confined to people downloading torrents over P2P networks, with ISPs such as Comcast being warned over such behavior by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). In the UK, ISPs have expressed displeasure over the BBC iPlayer and how it is costing them money. And it’s happening all around the world.
Netflix Throttling Itself?
A thought-provoking post on The Break it down Blog investigates whether Netflix has started throttling its service to PC users. The author, Riyad Kalla, has noticed a deterioration of the Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ service on his PC compared to on his Xbox 360.
He details how he determined that it was Netflix rather than his ISP, Qwest, doing the throttling and asks whether this is due to Netflix having contractual obligations to provide a certain level of service to Microsoft via the Xbox 360.
The comments on the blog post address the various issues, and make for interesting reading. While it’s not 100 percent cut and dried that Netflix is to blame for this worsening of its service, the possibility does make me wonder if the company has maybe overstretched itself by moving onto one too many devices.
Streaming and digital downloading isn’t going to truly take off if the companies involved, including the ISPs who effectively act as middle-men cannot guarantee a fast and efficient service. With Netflix looking to offer a streaming-only service in the future, this could prove to be a business-killer in the long run.